Taking the annual bestseller lists of The Bookman (1900-1912) and Publishers Weekly (1912-1999) as his starting point, Michael Korda--who has an impressive record of writing and editing bestsellers himself--looks at the twentieth century American cultural landscape through the prism of its popular reading. The bestseller list, he notes, has much to tell us about what's on our mind, while offering tantalizing glimpses of our collective dreams, illusions, and nightmares as well.
Devoting a chapter to each decade, Korda scrutinizes the annual lists and points up the historical, social, and publishing trends that have fashioned the bestsellers and, in some cases, been fostered by them. War, censorship, political scandal, diet crazes, TV talk shows, superagents, and superstores all play a part in this story--a tale of risk-taking and safe bets, of old guards and young Turks, of net sales and gross margins, of "banned in Boston" and "soon to be a major motion picture."
With solid facts as well as personal anecdotes culled from a lifetime on the bestseller battlefield, Korda sifts though both the enduring and alluringly faddish. He assays the generations of novels, big and small, that have most appealed to us, but also recounts the long lineage of non-fiction blockbusters designed to lift our spirits, boost our self-esteem, or reduce our waistlines.
The one hundred annual bestseller lists included in Making the List are equally evocative: long-running favorite titles and one-season successes live cheek by jowl on these lists; books by authors for the ages and by those now to be found only in yesterday's society pages peacefully coexist. What may surprise the reader most, however, is how little the types of books that achieve bestseller status changed through the century.
Though Korda wisely admits that the ways of bestsellerdom are often mysterious, that no one can get it 100 percent right when it comes to doping out just what makes a bestseller, Making the List proves him to be a fascinated student, witty observer, and canny guide to the fashions and fortunes of the bestseller list--and of the reading public.
|Publisher:||Barnes & Noble|
|Product dimensions:||6.59(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.02(d)|